Unusual Guests: Václav Klaus, Pope Francis and Killer Clowns Pay Visit to Sweden

Sweden, 11 Oct - 07 Nov 2016
Sweden Democrats' event in Stockholm sparks controversy ++ “Killer clowns” invade Sweden ++ Pope Francis visits Sweden. by Jens Ummethum
Sweden Democrats' event in Stockholm sparks controversy

The „European Freedom Awards“, a gala hosted by the nationalist party Sweden Democrats (SD) and arranged by the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE), a think-tank, has sparked strong reactions. Critics of the SD verbally attacked the Grand Hotel Stockholm where the event took place. Guests left the hotel or cancelled their bookings while the hotel’s Facebook page endured a „shitstorm“ by angry users. Other organisations announced that planned events at the Grand Hotel would be re-located to different locations.

At the event, controversial former Czech President Václav Klaus, a known EU-sceptic, received an award and his speech received standing ovations from the audience which included several European right-wing leaders. Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström called the speech xenophobic.

In the aftermath of the gala and the negative reactions by large parts of the public, the Grand Hotel Stockholm stated that it should have cancelled the event, although, that would have been a breach of contract. The spokesperson for the Sweden Democrats accused the hotel of hypocrisy due to the fact that it „never had a problem with housing everything from Islamist leaders to bloodstained dictators. As recently as a year ago, the hotel arranged Saudi Arabia's National Day, and the country is one of the world's worst dictatorships”.

Pope Francis visits Sweden

Pope Francis paid a short visit to the southern Swedish province of Scania as part of the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Furthermore, a reconciliatory dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and Lutheranism began exactly 50 years ago.

First up for the pope was an ecumenical service in the city of Lund. He attended the service together with the Bishop of the Catholic Church in Sweden and the Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Sweden. On All Saints’ Day on 1st of November, Francis celebrated a Holy Mass in Malmö’s Swedbank Arena which was attended by 20,000 people. Visitors came from all over the country and even from Norway to see the pope and to hold a church service with him.

Many Swedes appreciate the pope’s visit to Sweden, a secular and Lutheran country. The head of all Catholics emphasised the many common traits between the different Christian persuasions and urged on working together especially when it comes to humans in need such as refugees and people in war-torn countries. However, questioned about the fact that the Catholic Church does not allow women to become priests, Francis made clear that he and the Vatican do not intend to change this policy that’s regarded as sexist towards women and outdated by most Swedes. Further, it stands in contrast to the Lutheran Church which allows the practice as evidenced by the female Swedish Archbishop Antje Jackelén.

“Killer clowns” invade Sweden

So called killer clowns, people dressed up as clowns wearing horror masks, showed up in masses in the weeks leading up to Halloween in several places in Sweden. The phenomenon had earlier been observed in the United States. Most of the time, the clowns did not do anything noteworthy but in several cases people reported being threatened or attacked.

Police in the south of Sweden received eighty complaints in just one day which marked the climax of the hysteria. Businesses and tourist attractions even stopped planned advertising campaigns before Halloween which included clowns. Police pointed out that it was not against the law to wear a costume. However, it can be unlawful to threaten or frighten another person and it is obviously forbidden to attack people. Due to the fact that the perpetrators were wearing costumes, police has not been able to identify anyone.

After Halloween passed, the sightings of killer clowns became less and less. Observers pointed out that this phenomenon and the many complaints to police were also a result of the media hype which accompanied it.

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